Iceland - Day 2

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We awakened this morning to cloudy skies, and went downstairs to breakfast. There was a wide variety of breakfast food at the Hotel Island: the usual cereals, grains, toast, yogurt, juice, milk, plus eggs, potatoes, bacon and sausage. After breakfast the Hertz rental car man arrived to take Mike to pick up the car - a surprise to us, since our original papers stated that the car would be dropped off at the hotel.

An hour later Mike came back with our Toyota van. It was HUGE! There were enough seats for 8 people, plus ample room for luggage in the very rear. It seemed like overkill for the 5 of us, but the alternative would have been a car for 4 people, and that would have been much too crowded. As it turned out, the van took diesel fuel. In the U.S., diesel fuel costs about the same as gasoline, but in Iceland it was about one third the cost. We ended up spending about $120US for fuel for our entire vacation.

So we were ready to begin our driving trip in Iceland. The kids worked out some rotational scheme as to who would sit where, on what day. It turned out that Mike was the designated driver, in part because I did not go to the Hertz office and therefore they did not have my driver's license. It was also fortuitous that I did the navigating - because some of the roads were a bit scary negotiating the grades and the turns in such a big vehicle! Very few of the roads have guardrails, which we take for granted here, and many of the highways are gravel, perhaps 3/4 lane in each direction. It was OK as long as no one was coming in the opposite direction, but much of the time we would traverse "Blind Headers" where you couldn't tell if you were in imminent danger of a head-on collision!

Blue Lagoon

 

Lava Field

 

Grindavík Memorial

 

Krýsuvík

 

Mudflats at Krýsuvík

But the roads surrounding Reykjavík were somewhat similar to what we are accustomed to, and on our first driving day we retraced our path towards Keflavík Airport, going to the Blue Lagoon. This is a spa formed from run-off water generated by the power plant at Svartsengi. Most of Iceland's heat and electricity is produced from geothermal sources, and this power plant gets superheated water from deep within the earth. The run-off water - over 150 F, and rich in silica - forms the Lagoon. It is said to have medicinal benefits for people with skin disorders.

We spent a leisurely hour or so in the pool, moving in and out depending on how cold or warm we were. The air temperature was perhaps 65 F and it had become sunny, so the Lagoon was not as inviting as it must be in the colder months, although we still enjoyed the experience. While bobbing around in the water we met Eric and June, a lovely retired British couple who were following the same itinerary as we. Mike had met Eric earlier, on the Hertz rental run, and we would see them many times most days.

The Blue Lagoon is located in the middle of lava land - what an unearthly sight! A gray moss or lichen was growing in many spots, providing a surreal cushion over the lava. We left the Lagoon and drove to Grindavík, a pretty little fishing village where we ate lunch at Sjómannastofan Vör. Mike had cabbage soup, I had shellfish soup, the kids had burgers, and we all had a soda. This was our first introduction to the price of food here - it was a $50USD lunch! Outside the restaurant was the statue commemorating the families of the men lost at sea. Well-tended, pretty flowers surrounded the memorial and lined the path leading to it.

Then we were off to find Krýsuvík. The road very quickly turned from asphalt to gravel, and the going was slow. The scenery was interesting, where the lava landscape meets the sea. We drove through foothills that may have been ancient volcanoes, and might have thought we were on the wrong desolate road but for the sparse yet continual traffic in the other direction. The road was narrow and rocks and lava came right up to the edge - which made meeting cars coming from the opposite direction interesting!

Just when we feared we might have missed Krýsuvík, there was Route 42, with steam clouds in the distance. On the opposite side of the roadway was a turn-in at the site of a small geysir and bubbling mud flats. The sulfurous (rotten egg) smell was reminiscent of Yellowstone National Park, although the area here was much smaller. We walked around, being careful to stay on the boardwalks and paths.

We stopped in Hafnarfjörður in hopes of seeing the Maritime Museum, but it was closed for the holiday. Back in Reykjavík, we checked out the running track at Laugardalur, and Mike and Brian returned there for their 5-mile run.

Tonight's dinner was at Naustid, a restaurant in the center of the city. This is the oldest Reykjavík restaurant still operating (since 1954). Decorated with a charming wooden ship motif, there were beautiful wooden tables - although ours sloped mysteriously, and Ali's salad plate kept moving on its own toward the center of the table! I had shrimp cocktail (not what I expected: instead of the usual 4 - 5 jumbo shrimp, there were dozens of teeny shrimp bathed in a Thousand Island-type dressing, on a bed of shredded lettuce - delicious!). The kids had a seafood soup, which included a delicious broth and a variety of fresh seafood. Mike enjoyed the seafood buffet, and I had lamb with bernaise sauce. Again, the sauce and vegetables (potato, cauliflower, broccoli) were nearly as exquisite as the lamb.

We then walked around Reykjavík - still not dark at 10:30 PM - looking for ice cream for the kids. We finally had to settle for McDonalds. Ice cream is ice cream!

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